April 11, 2007
A long drive down the Michoacán Coast today. Very hilly – up, down, and around. Much like the Pacific Coast Hwy in California. The difference being that there are no viewpoints to pull off to. There are brief, teasing glimpses through the foliage but rarely a good look. It would be a great coastline to helicopter over ...should the lotto goddess ever descend on this humble household.
Stopped in Playa Azul for lunch. Got smarter this time and parked the truck and trailer on the street leading into town, then walked in. Before coming to Mexico people warned us to never, ever park our truck and trailer and leave it. But if you don’t do that, you’ll never see anything. So throughout this trip we’ve parked the rig on back streets all over Mexico and nothing has ever been tampered with. The only exception was the loss of some inexpensive clamps off the trailer’s awning and we are pretty certain we know who took them and he was not Mexican.
Ordered some decent chicken tacos at a restaurant right on the water. During lunch a poor fellow came table to table, croaking out a song while he shook a pop bottle filled with rocks. Steve asked for “El Rancho Grande”. He couldn’t or wouldn’t sing it, but Steve gave him some money anyway.
A few minutes later a real mariachi band came along. This band had two grandpas on fiddles, one on a home made harp/bass, and two on guitars. Other mariachi bands we’ve enjoyed were real characters, seeming to genuinely get off on entertaining and interacting with us. But these guys were absolutely deadpan. One old guy was basically asleep on his feet, fiddle dangling at this side. Every so often something would wake him. He’d swing the fiddle into position, screech out a riff, always the same one, then drop it to his side and go back to staring into space .
Some locals drinking at the table next to ours surprised us by asking the fellows to play El Rancho Grande, which they did. On finishing, Steve tried to pay the band but they said, no, the men at the next table had paid them to play for us so they couldn’t take our money. Friendly people.
Unfortunately the day deteriorated from there. The drive from Playa Azul to Zihuatanejo was a hard one and the trailer seemed to be bucking like crazy.
Arriving in Zihuatanejo we followed some very complicated instructions to the RV park. While I was discovering that the park was already full, Steve was being honked at by buses. Responding to that, he managed to get the trailer boxed into a position that he could not get out of. Every time he moved the trailer he inched closer to a parked car until he was literally within 1-2 inches.
Fortunately a bunch of watching taxi drivers stepped in to help. We unhooked and hand-bombed the trailer out of its tight spot. Then we hooked it back up and drove away. But before we did that, we discovered the nut on the bottom of the ball had come off and the trailer was within moments of popping off the hitch. That’s why it had been bucking.
So Steve tightened it best he could by hand and we continued on to find another RV park. We became hopelessly lost and about then the trailer started bucking again. Steve got out and tightened the nut by hand again but it was obvious we were going to have to find a spanner big enough to do a proper job. We’d seen some guys on the other side of a canal working on a car so we crossed over and onto this single lane road, hoping they’d have a spanner we could use.
This may sound like it was no big deal but I am leaving out a lot, believe me. For one thing, the lane we crawled down to the mechanics on was beside a canal and the further we went the narrower it became. The first mechanic didn’t have a spanner to fit so we had to continue on. Lots and lots of anxiety about running out of roadway before the canal took over, but fortunately not.
Once we had the nut firmly fixed on again we took a deep breath and looked around. There are two boundaries in this part of the world. Ocean on one side, MEX 200, the major highway on the other. We could see the water, so we headed directly away from it and got ourselves back onto MEX 200. From there we were able to find our way back to a starting point, choose another RV Park from the guidebook and get going in the right direction.
This time we found a campground that had room for us. It was not the one we were headed for ...but that is usually the way it is ...something always turns up.
We are at Playa Ropa, a modest, resort-type area just outside of Zihuatenajo. There is a lovely beach-front restaurant, with an open-air palapa out onto the beach and a big dusty parking lot out back for campers. But there are also trees and a creek full of crocodiles to amuse us. The bathrooms are clean and the electricity works. There is wireless internet. We are content.
We explore the beachfront, discovering lots of interesting looking restaurants. Choose one and have a most enjoyable meal, finished off with the best chocolate ice cream. Later that evening we meet our neighbours in the parking lot – an Australian couple who have been on the road through Canada and US for 13 months already. They are heading south towards the tip of South America from where they will ship home in a year or two. Or maybe not. There’s a lot of those kind of travelers out here. Free spirits who relish life on the road and have no definite plans about returning to their country of origin.
April 12, 2007
Fall asleep quickly, only to be wakened by the most insane racket. There is a suicidal gaggle of ducks living in the river and I guess one of the crocs decided on duck for dinner. The duck did not go quietly.
Steve photographed the crocs today so it’s true, they are there alright. We’re a bit shocked at the size of them, about 8 feet long. An embankment of sharp rocks has been built between the restaurant/parking lot and the river to discourage the crocs from coming up. But one of the permanent residents informs us they sometimes find croc tracks in the restaurant palapa so I guess the crocs know to go around by the beach too. Make a mental note to wave flash light all over when I set out for the bathroom at night.
Today we explored Zihuatanejo. It’s a pleasant town, very real and vibrant with activity and life. Totally different from Ixtapa, the purpose-built resort town just a few kilometres away. There is nothing in Ixtapa but shiny new resorts, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Trying to find a way to the beach, Steve tried to cut through the lobby of a hotel and the security guard rudely removed him from the premises.
Everyone here is wearing a plastic wrist band of some sort. Different colours for different resorts. Not having any kind of wristband ourselves we have no privileges. So we ask around and find a back lane public beach access. Once you are on the beach though, it doesn’t make any difference. It’s all the same beach and there are lots of entrepreneurs eager to rent you a beach chair or an umbrella or anything else your heart desires.
Head back to Zihuatanejo and a self-serve laundry we’ve heard about. Three loads washed and dried for $9. You can always find someone to do your laundry for you, and it’s usually cheap, but the clothes come back heavily scented and with that strange “feel” imparted by too many dryer sheets. We like to do our own.
Enjoyed walking around Zihuatanejo and finished the day with some great coffee in a beautiful pedestrian mall shaded by large mango trees and palms.
That night the bed began shaking, then the whole trailer was rocking back and forth on its wheels. Turns out we were in the middle of an earthquake. After the first round of tremors we were amused to hear the camp commandent, Julia, marching around the parking lot, yelling out that people should not worry, this is normal. Go back to sleep.
She’s an interesting lady, a Canadian in her mid 60s who swears she will never again endure an Ontario winter. She came into some money last November so she bought an old diesel pusher (a big RV bus) and headed south from Toronto to Mexico. She had never before RV’d or driven anything like that. Apparently, once she hit Zihuatanejo she fell out of the damn thing kissing the ground. She declares that she is never ever leaving. Others in the RV park here have been pitching in to teach her how to maintain the RV, climbing onto the roof to re-seal seams before the monsoons hit.
The community of snowbirds who live here all winter have nearly all left for their northern homes by now but Julia is determined that she will stay. This is now home. She loves it. Zihuatanejo is a nice town for sure. It is the first place in Mexico I’ve been that I feel I could actually stay for any length of time.
April 14, 2007
But there are still many places to see so after three days we point the truck south and head down the coast towards Acapulco. Spent most of the day driving through coconut groves. There are lots of small towns and some bigger ones enroute. There is a real sense of industry here on the mainland that seems to be missing in Baja.
The road is often built up on a kind of dike, placing drivers much higher than the homes so you can see right down into them. Here someone is in their kitchen making tortillas, there they are braiding their daughter’s hair, here they are breastfeeding an infant, there they are sitting on the front stoop fitting some machinery parts together.
Everyone is busy doing something or selling something. Every one-burro town has at least two topes,(road bumps) going in and going out. The people take advantage of the slowing of the vehicles to jump out at you, waving their products in front of the window – bread, tortillas, pineapple juice, candies, melons, crisps, shrimp, fish, toys ...even the Red Cross seems to be running some kind of drive because we keep running into kids shaking donation containers with big red crosses on them. We always give them some money, and they always give us a red cross sticker to affix to the windshield.
The MEX 200 runs right through the middle of these towns. Often, it is the only paved road. Every road that branches off is a dirt lane, winding down through little shanty-style homes hammered or adobed together. As mentioned, the highway often runs significantly higher than the homes and looking down at them, I realize that when the rainy season comes these areas must get flooded out. Most of the houses are built up and some even have bridges running from the front door to the highway. But the dust must all turn to mud and I am betting a lot of those homes leak like a sieve.
There is something about Mexcio that grows on you. The industriousness of the people ...always out there cleaning and sweeping and hosing things down. Busy, busy, busy. I never hear anyone cursing or being angry. There are always a few horn blowers in the crowd, but for the most part drivers are tolerant. Need to make a “returno?” Everyone waits patiently.
The roads are chaos, but somehow it all works.
Drove into Acapulco today. Now that is controlled chaos. I notice that Steve’s driving has gotten considerably more aggressive. He’s really getting the Mexican spirit – which is to give no quarter, snatch every opportunity – at the same time there is no malice or anger. And when you have been bettered, you shrug your shoulders and wait patiently.
We are at the Acapulco Trailer Park which is actually in the town of Pie de la Cuesta, about 8 km from Acapulco. We are right on the beach with its violent, thundering surf. The park is shaded by mature coconut trees and is very pleasant. Once again the snowbirds have all flown north and not being a local holiday, that leaves us alone in the RV park. No wait for the showers!